by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Deep vein thrombosis known as a DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein as opposed to a superficial vein. A blood clot is called a thrombus in medicine. Anyone can develop a DVT at anytime though the risk increase with age and DVT’s in children are rare. DVT’s become dangerous when a piece of the clot breaks off into the bloodstream. The peice that breaks off is called an embolis. When the embolis travels in the bloodstream it’s called a venous thromboemolis or VTE. It is estimated that at least 600,000 people in the US suffer from VTE’s every year. It is also estimated that approximately 100,00 people die from pulmonary embolis every year. A pulmonary embolis is a VTE that travels to the lungs.
The most common cause of blodd clot formation in the deep veins is remaining stationary fro long period of time. Blood clots can occur in an artery but it’s rare. The reason the form in veins is because there is very little pressure left to push the blood back through the veins to the lungs and heart. The arteries are the blood vessels that are bringing the oxygenated blood pumped out of the heart to our body. Veins carry the unoxygenated blood back to te lungs to be oxygenated before going on to the heart to to be pumped into the arteries. Veins rely on two things to get the blood back to the lungs, tiny one-way valves inside the veins to prevent the blood from sliding backwards and the other is movement of the muscle surrounding the veins. The most commonplace for a DVT to develop is in the legs. The people most at risk for developing this type of DVT are those that are sitting for long periods of time. For example long plane rides or road trips. In 2003 David Bloom a reporter for NBC died from a pulmonary embolis after having sat on a long plane ride and the sat on/in a military vehicle for many hours. It’s important to take the time to walk around at least every two hours. DVT’s become dangerous when a piece breaks off into the blood stream headed for the lungs. Since the veins are taking the blood back to the lungs to be oxygenated that’s where the embolis will also travel eventually reaching the lungs and becoming a pulmonary embolism.A pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency. This is why now in the hospital you are required to be up in a chair with in 24hours after surgery. In many hospitals patients that can not get out of bed are given passive range of motion to decrease the potential for DVT’s as well as maintaining the muscle integrity. Any type of trauma to your legs regardless of whether or not you have surgery or a cast can also lead to developing a DVT. I know of people taht were out playing around and their leg got banged and it only hurt for a minute and they forgot about it, until later. A DVT developed in their leg from that bang.
The symptoms of DVT are not always noticeable, in fact in at least one half of those with a DVT there are no noticeable symptoms. However, those that do exhibit symptoms will have swelling in the area affected, it will also be red, warm and tender to touch. The pain frequently encompasses the entire lower leg including the ankle and foot.
Treatment of DVT is always focused on preventing a pulmonary embolism. Therefore it is very important that if you start having even mild symptoms of a DVT and you’ve recently been on a long flight, road trip or received any type of trauma to your leg no matter how mild contact your Dr. The number one treatment for DVT is medications known as blood thinners. If your DVT has fractured and you have developed a pulmonary embolism the Dr will use new medications known as clot busters in an attempt to break up the clot. These medications though they have significantly improved the survival rate of people suffering from pulmonary embolisms they are very dangerous and used only in life threatening situations.
Prevention of DVT’s is not only better but much easier than treating them. The most important thing you can do to prevent DVT’s is move. If you’re on a plane or bus get up and walk in the isle or do isotonic exercises, move your ankles and toes while sitting. If you’re driving stop at least every 2 hours and walk around for a few minutes. It’s amazing how easy it is to bump your leg on another seat, the door or maybe a suitcase, then sitting in your seat without thinking about it and the next thing you know a clot is forming. Wearing compression stockings or TEDS can help those that for one reason or another have limited mobility. Managing your blood pressure as well as other chronic diseases including your weight will also help prevent DVT’s.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.